Teaching Matters

Engaging students and teachers as partners in eVALUating learning

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Teaching Matters 2017 | Presentation Details | 28 NovemberNov 2017


Engaging students and teachers as partners in eVALUating learning


Cassandra Saunders, Strategy, Planning and Performance
Wendy Green, Tasmanian Institute of Learning and Teaching
Steven Collette, Strategy, Planning and Performance
Nazlee Siddiqui, Tasmanian School of Business and Economics
Jane Skalicky, Student Retention and Success
CarolAnn Fletcher, College of Arts, Law and Education
Calvin Hong, Australian Maritime College
Le Xi K’ng, Faculty of Science, Engineering and Technology
Tracey McHugh, Faculty of Health
Costa Papas, Faculty of Health
Melanie Ross, College of Arts, Law and Education
Dongqin Ruan, College of Arts, Law and Education


Making a Difference for Students

Presentation Type

Showcase Presentation


Social Sciences 210




Universities have a long history of collecting student feedback on learning and teaching to enhance the quality of the student experience (Blackmore, 2009; Harvey & Williams, 2010). However, with the recently renewed focus on quality assurance across the higher education sector, student feedback is now considered a vital component of quality assurance processes, providing an opportunity to deepen student engagement and learning improvement.

In recent years, universities, both nationally and internationally, have achieved a functional proficiency with student feedback not previously possible, by moving away from traditional paper-based surveys to online evaluations. While this has led to a number of benefits, including, inter alia, reduced operational costs, greater flexibility, improved analytical and reporting efficiencies and environmental sustainability (Bennett & Nair, 2010; Bothell & Henderson, 2003; Dommeyer et al, 2004; Donovan, Mader, & Shinsky, 2007), the move to online delivery of student surveys has led to a reduction in response rates across many Australian universities. While reduced response rates continue to be recognised as a national challenge (Kinash et al, 2015), to date, research has tended to focus on building the capacity of institutions and teaching staff to encourage student responses to student surveys. Anecdotal evidence suggests that low response rates are directly related to a perception that student feedback is not acted upon (or not visible to students), however, there is a paucity of formal research regarding student perceptions of evaluation surveys, in particular, why their engagement with the surveys is generally low and what institutions can do to better engage students in the evaluation process.

Healey, Flint, & Harrington, (2014) have developed a ‘Students as Partners’ Framework’, which positions students and academics as active collaborators, co-researchers and evidence-based change agents. Informed by this Framework, this project engages students from a diverse range of backgrounds and disciplines as research partners to explore current student perceptions of, and motivations for, completing student evaluations. The study’s mixed-methods sequential explanatory design involved collecting and analysing quantitative and qualitative data using a combination of focus groups and a student survey. A team of five staff and seven students collaborated at each stage of the research from conception to instrument design, collection and analysis of data.

Preliminary findings indicate that email is students’ preferred method to promote the surveys, followed by MyLO announcements and direct communication by teaching staff. Encouragingly, the main reason that students complete their surveys is that they recognise that their feedback is valued by academic staff. Reasons for students not completing their surveys included: too busy; feedback not valued; nothing needs to be changed in the unit; and, don’t receive any direct benefit from providing feedback. There was strong support by students to be given the opportunity to provide formative feedback earlier in the semester. Informed by the overall findings, the student-staff team will co-develop resources, interventions and recommendations aimed at better engaging students in the evaluative process.


Bennett, L., & Nair, C. S. (2010). A recipe for effective participation rates for web-based surveys. Assessment and Evaluation in Higher Education, 35(4), 357-365.

Blackmore, J. (2009). Academic pedagogies, quality logics and performance universities: Evaluating teaching and what students want. Studies in Higher Education, 34(8), 857-872.

Bothell, T. W., & Henderson, T. (2003). Do online ratings of instruction make $ense. New Directions for Teaching and Learning, 2003(96), 69-79.

Dommeyer, C. J., Baum, P., Hanna, R. W., & Chapman, K. S. (2004). Gathering faculty teaching evaluations by in-class and online surveys: Their effects on response rates and evaluations. Assessment and Evaluation, 29(5), 611-623.

Donovan, J., Mader, C. E., & Shinsky, J. (2007). Online vs. traditional course evaluation formats: Student perceptions. Journal of Interactive Online Learning, 6(3), 158-180.

Harvey, L., & Williams, J. (2010). Fifteen years of quality in higher education (Part two). Quality in Higher Education, 16(2), 81-113.

Healey, M., Flint, A. & Harrington, K. (2014). Engagement through partnership: Students as partners in learning and teaching in higher education. Higher Education Academy. Retrieved from https://www.heacademy.ac.uk/engagement-through-partnership-students-partners-learning-and-teaching-higher-education

Kinash, S., Santhanam, E., Tulloch, M., Tucker, B., Nair, S., Fleming, J. & Schulz, M. (2015). Measuring and improving student course engagement and learning success through online student evaluation systems: Final Report. OLT. Retrieved from http://www.olt.gov.au/project-measuring-and-improving-student-course-engagement-and-learning-success-through-online-studen

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